Nice video clip from Education Scotland on some uses of the library at Beeslack Community High School .
Alan Gibbons is launching an authors’ letter calling on the Department of Education to act urgently on the recommendations of the All Parliamentary Group on School Libraries.
Anyone interested in the promotion of libraries or education can sign, including librarians, teachers, artists, software engineers, lollipop personnel, parents, and absolutely anyone else!
The letter will be published in The Guardian on Thursday 17th July, and the greater the number of signatories the better.
If you would like to read the letter with a view to signing, email Alan at mygibbo @(removing the spaces) or check out his Facebook page.
Last term I gratefully accepted an offer of excess shelving. I remain extremely grateful, but the delivery was somewhat lacking and the Library continues to live with the consequences, one of which was that there was no time for lunchtime clubs. The Library was open but there was very little demand; an occasional body would pop by to change books or sit and read, or print off an essay, but it was mostly quiet.
At the same time there were two pupils and two or more staff present, plus myself. So we would blether and plan and generally relax at lunchtime.
This lunchtime I hosted 4 x S3 working on presentations for English, 2 x S3 researching trench warfare for History, 7 x S2 working on a Science project, 2 x S1 selecting books, 4 x S1 researching nutrition for Home Economics, 1 x S5 reading, and 12 x various years looking for their colleagues.
The only other person in the Library was me.
Now I appreciate that thirty is nothing in comparison with other school libraries, but it’s all very ironic that they all chose today when I had no other assistance.
Saturday, 8th February 2014 is National Libraries Day following a week’s worth of events across the country.
To celebrate, CILIPS are suggesting that libraries to find at least one (preferably more) library visitor(s) to write the answer to this question on a piece of A4 and have their photo taken:
What did you do in your library today?
The images will then be collated by CILIPS.
Obviously in the case of schools, National Libraries Day will have to be held the previous day, but I love the idea. And naturally we’ll have our own resource out of it too. I’m wondering what classes are already booked in for that date? 🙂
Further information is available on the CILIPS and National Libraries Day websites:
An sln member drew attention to an article in the Summer edition of Independent School magazine called The new school library. The main gist of the article is that the internet is changing the nature of school libraries. It’s a point of view that I respectfully disagree with; to me, the last twenty years of my life as a school librarian has always been about creating
a mixed-use space for research, study, collaboration, global connection, and more
although modern technology has certainly made the attempt a lot easier 🙂
But that’s nit-picking. I think the article provides an excellent overview of the role of a school library in the 21st century and the choices its staff have to make.
At the end of the article was a section entitled
Technology and the Library: What’s Hot, and What’s Not?
which listed twelve criteria for how a school library should be organised in the present, including technology, collaboration, equipment, information literacy and attitudes of librarian, teaching staff and management.
So how hot is my library using these criteria? (Lisa Simpson needing graded – that’s me). Well, I make it sunny with scattered showers. Some issues are not under the school’s control (staffing and network technology are decided at council level) and while most of the other criteria are in place, they would benefit from expansion.
Their list makes an interesting comparison with the infographic created by Robert Gordon University / SLIC regarding the impact of school libraries on learning.
The list from Independent School magazine is a fairly decent recipe for the perfect school library, but it’s interesting that it assumes a professionally qualified, well experienced, knowledgeable specialist librarian, (mentioned throughout the article).
It’s difficult to create the perfect recipe without a chef.
An interesting day spent on Access-IT training (Access-IT is the library management system used in our authority, and personally, I think it’s very good). These sessions take place every couple of years, with folks coming over from New Zealand to train, gather feedback and collect ideas for new features.
This time, we spent a lot of time discussing digital resources and how to supply them to our users. All public organisations will be faced with the dichotomy between security levels demanded by the government and providing access to users, and libraries are often at the sharp edge, with the desire to supply e-books and other online material competing with the legal requirements for proper filtering.
It’s also a great opportunity to share ideas with colleagues, especially how the software is used, for example, suggestions for what appears on the catalogue front pages, uses for the visual search, or even the choice of phrasing to assist borrowers. Not forgetting recommending resources, identifying problems and proposing solutions.
Not surprisingly, I left with a task list a page long, and gifted the Access-IT folks an equally long list of ideas to make managing the library easier.
ND: Written 5th November – published once I checked the quotes were correct
En route to work this morning, I was listening to Radio Scotland. One discussion featured The Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change which will be based at Glasgow University. The Centre is a thinktank specifically aimed at fixing the attainment gap between children from better off and poorer families as mentioned by the 2007 OECD report:
One major challenge facing Scottish schools is to reduce the achievement gap that opens up about Primary 5 and
continues to widen throughout the junior secondary years (S1 to S4). Children from poorer communities and low socio-economic status homes are more likely than others to under-achieve, while the gap associated with poverty and deprivation in local government areas appears to be very wide.
During the discussion I was struck by the Professor Christopher Chapman’s comments :
Now more than ever is a critical time for education policy. We need to develop new, collaborative ways of working within and between schools that will allow us to share and develop ideas and best practice. But this cannot be done in isolation. Schools must be linked to a whole range of other agencies and the Robert Owen Centre will encourage dialogue and a rethinking of roles, relationships and responsibilities within the system.
I wondered if ‘other agencies’ was going to include libraries, or if their role in education and attainment was going to be overlooked.
Five minutes later, there was a discussion about the proposed closure of libraries in Moray. The Leader of Moray Council, Councillor Allan Wright, spoke first, saying:
Let’s face the fact that we’re in the 21st century, and we have a whole range of modern technology. We have electronic readers, we have broadband, we have heaps of ways of getting that
Well, replied presenter, Louise White, broadband isn’t everywhere. Many people can only access the internet through the libraries. Not true, he said,
The Highlands and Islands are getting fast broadband rolled out across the area. In Moray it will cover 90% of Moray, and we as a council, are ready to help local groups outwith the map that gets the 90% to help them to do their own thing.
It’s not clear whether this broadband will be available to people’s houses, whether there will be assistance with computer purchases, maintenance or upgrading, or with broadband bills, or whether the community would have to stump up for that itself.
And will there will be someone on hand to train folks how to use the thing, like, er, a library would.
The juxtaposition of the two discussions was intriguing. On the one hand, we have a population of young people from poorer backgrounds that we know are failing to achieve and attain. On the other, we have evidence that young people who read for pleasure achieve more than those who don’t, and are healthier and even better at Maths as a result! Undeniably, libraries, whether public or school, have a role to play. Moray Council have bills to pay, but closing down the libraries is a knee-jerk reaction, and not looking at the role that libraries actually play.
Because e-readers are not the answer and neither is broadband. The expense, the lack of information and the lack of quality control are major issues.
Take just one of those issues. I can’t just buy whatever books I want. Like everyone else, I budget, and if I can’t afford something new, then I don’t buy it. That doesn’t mean I throw away every book that’s already there!
Meanwhile I can still buy books on a time-share basis, using the library as an intermediary. I pay taxes that employ trained people to select decent material for all tastes, and prepare it for my and everyone’s else’s use. In return for sharing with everyone else, I have access to a massive collection of information and stories, and professional advice that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, or even be aware of.
And that’s just me. My family all read, but we have very different tastes. I prefer non-fiction nowadays (not much available on e-readers) but read a huge amount of teen fiction in a professional capacity. My daughter is just learning what she likes, and to do that, she needs access to a wide range of titles. My mother is an avid reader, or rather listener, since she prefers audio books these days. The librarians help her to access the titles she’s looking for.
I could go on, and on, but I won’t.
Perhaps the most telling point of the discussion was this:
Louise White: Libraries are different, aren’t they? They’re sacred. They’re part of our community.
Councillor Wright: They’re not sacred in my book.
Well, as any Librarian will tell you, you should really consult more than one book to confirm your information. Maybe the good Councillor should check out his library?
Good day today. Very busy but accomplished a lot which always feels good.
Period 1 the Library hosted a 1st year Science class investigating elements of the Periodic Table (more about them later), then gave one of the English classes a turn at some Kids Lit Quiz questions.
At Tutor Time, I’m wandering round 3rd year classes, encouraging our Micro Tyco groups to leave some information about their enterprises on the blog, and I discover some of disheartened faces. Their problem: they don’t know what to do for Micro Tyco. We have a blether about what’s already being done, what they fancy doing, and what’s actually feasible. Time ticks away while our brains lie exposed on the rack, and its getting closer to interval. Closer to my cup of tea … tea … tea! Inspiration strikes.
You know what’s wonderful? I ask them, having a cup of tea waiting for you at interval time. Why don’t you ask if any department would be willing to pay you to get their tea ready for them? And off they head on some market researching. Unfortunately, our departments all take their breaks in their own department bases, so they’ll have a limited market unless they split up, but “50p for a cup of tea” does hit a thirsty nerve 🙂
Period 3 and we’re back to the Unicorns and Tree Climbing Octopus. This class have already covered the lesson comparing the two websites, but their teacher hasn’t, so its a great chance for them to show off what they know.
Before lunch is a free period, so I’m preparing for forthcoming meetings with RCAHMS and Catalyst, training days with Access-IT, and trying to keep up with the ever encroaching e-mail.
At lunchtime, the Photo Club are working on their modules while more hopefuls come and take part in the KLQ trials, before 2nd year come piling in to begin transferring their written work onto the blog. Insisting on hand-drawn mind-maps to collect and arrange information has had a definite impact and there’s no plagiarism visible at all. It’s also been quicker to write since the information has already been sorted into paragraphs, and before they begin typing, I ask them to read and comment or one or two existing blog articles (which is also a great way for them to think about their own layout without me having to talk at them even more 🙂 )
No class last period, so its more e-mail, preparing materials for new lessons, and taking care of the comments already left on the blog – all positive thankfully.
And as usual, although I put the kettle on when the bell goes, I never get round to that second cup of tea. If only someone was around to make it for me …
Seems obvious yes? If you’re interested, you’re more engaged. If you’re more engaged, you’re likely to learn more. This report suggests it’s more complicated than that, and that interest can actually help make learning more positive and more efficient, with deeper understanding and better connections to previous knowledge. There’s even evidence to indicate that learning difficulties can be overcome when the learner is engrossed.
The obvious example that springs to mind is young children obsessed with dinosaurs, rhyming off multisyllabic scientific names, theoretically far above their reading age.
There’s lots of good advice in the article about how educators can spark, harness and maintain interest, but this was the sentence that grabbed my attention.
In a world too full of information, interests usefully narrow our choices: they lead us to pay attention to this and not to that.
Makes sense. You scan through articles and linger over those that catch your eye. But what happens when you’re not especially interested in the first place, but still have to research a particular topic? What do you do when nothing is stimulating, when nothing catches your eye. If interest makes it easier to learn, surely that presupposes lack of interest makes it more difficult to learn.
Imagine looking through a load of books, or at search engine results, or perhaps you’re trying to gather information from a particular website. And nothing is jumping out at you. As an adult, you’d hopefully have the confidence to move onto something else, but what if you’re sitting in a class gazing at the materials your teacher or librarian has provided and there’s nothing, and I mean nothing, to captivate you.
What are the chances that you’re going to understand it, learn it, remember it? What are the chances that you’ll give up, start mucking about, not paying attention? What are the chances that your brain starts to associate being bored with the process of research, and not just the specific topics?
The article continues,
… one reason that growing knowledge leads to growing interest is that new information increases the likelihood of conflict – of coming across a fact or idea that doesn’t fit with what we know already. We feel motivated to resolve this conflict, and we do so by learning more … A virtuous cycle is thus initiated: more learning leads to more questions, which in turn leads to more learning.
And I agree, so long as you’re already interested enough in the first place, and not disheartened by the research process.
To me, this is precisely why professionally qualified school librarians are an absolute essential in schools. The pupils are entitled to benefit from the advice and support of a person who understands the research process from start to finish, can seek out appropriate resources that can spark those questions, and work across the curriculum identifying connections.
Above all a person to collaborate with the other educators in the school to provide a collection of material that will fascinate and intrigue, to teach pupils and staff how to seek out reliable information for themselves, how to use it appropriately, and how to create their own, to demonstrate technologies that can achieve their aims in ways they find appealing, and to grab opportunities to maintain that support and advice whether the school is open or not.
Throughout, the article recommends making sure that students
have sufficient background knowledge to stimulate interest and avoid confusion … to cultivate interests that provide us with lasting intellectual stimulation and fulfillment
And a professionally run library is a pretty good place to cultivate those intellectually stimulating interests, and provide the background knowledge, through fiction, non-fiction, websites and DVDs, weekly clubs and annual events, detailed discussions and daft blethering. It saddens me that more people don’t know that, but it’s also part of my job to make sure that more people do.
And incidentally, The Brilliant Report is well named. I thoroughly recommend signing up to the newsletter.
You know, I think too much sometimes. The topic on this occasion: what is the purpose of a School Library at lunchtime?
Obvious answer is of course, the same as the rest of the time: reading, learning, teaching, fun, homework, study, careers, events, or just talk to the librarian. However, mine is not a school where the pupils are always keen to work away at lunchtime, and there are plenty of other activities taking place in other departments so rather than sit in an empty library, I’ve introduced a variety of activities.
For the last few years, a colleague and I have run the Photography Club once a week. The pupils come along to the Library, eat their lunch, relax and get to know each other (and the staff), and then we’ll either take some pictures, analyse existing photographs, work on Photoshop or discuss entries for competitions. We’ve had 1st years to 6th years, some only there for the craic and companionship and some for genuine interest in photography.
Successful bids bought a handful of wee cameras to use in wanders through the local country park and for photography jobs to do in the school. We also took the group to Summerlee, an industrial museum in Coatbridge on the site of an old ironworks. They have a photography studio subsidised by the council to work with school groups where we headed for a session on lighting and portraits. A great opportunity for the group to work with some professional equipment (and professional photographers!)
This year we decided to do something slightly different. We still run the club at lunchtime, but this time my colleague suggested submitting the pupils for a qualification. We invited all previous members along for a discussion of the idea, but only serious photographers showed up, all of whom were enthusiastic about the idea and it’s been much . It’s been running well ever since.
Last year I ran a Stuff’n’Things Club which was basically a little bit of everything: games, puzzles, competitions, storytelling, reading, cool websites, crafts. It grew out of a Creative Writing Club which dissolved when nobody had time to write or wanted to share their writing, but the usual mix of enthusiasts and attention seekers didn’t really work. Stuff’n’Things worked well at keeping pupils’ attention, and it wasn’t a problem if some people didn’t show for a while. Meanwhile, discussions with the dedicated creative writers have led to another club (run after school) called And Now This! that I’ve written about elsewhere.
Well, libraries should be there for everybody, that goes without saying, so it is better to have a library that’s in greater use overall but off-limits to non-club members two days a week, or a generally open library that isn’t so busy? My inclination is to the former, but it doesn’t stop me wondering, especially after I’ve read something wonderful from another school librarian.
What I need to remember is that Every Library is Different and Every Librarian is Different, and to accept the unacceptable:
YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING!!!!
*whispers* still fancy a graphic novel club though
The last of my carefully collected CD-ROMs were binned at the summer. No computer in the school can play them. Video disk players, audio tapes, CD players – all used in my time as a school librarian, all gone.
And of course since the digital age means ‘everything’ is online, there’s no need for hard copy resources, therefore no need for libraries, the place that hoards such antiques (because of course, the technology having got this far will stop now, right?!?)
As Audrey Sutton pointed out right at the start of the Autumn Gathering, change in resources is nothing new: from Sumerian tablets to digital tablets, libraries are still here.
However, it was striking how often advocacy cropped up in this year’s Autumn Gathering; striking but not surprising, because libraries are undoubtedly under threat, usually from people who don’t know what we do, and probably don’t care.
- advocacy is not just speaking up for ourselves, but getting others to speak up for us;
- advocacy has to be an ongoing, sustained effort;
- advocacy should be done collectively, within our own workplaces, and for ourselves
The need for advocacy is embedded in all the media reports of our demise: too many people do not know what it is that libraries do, or have an outdated or simplistic idea. The best folks to explain is us, and we’ve got to keep on explaining, over and over again.
Barbara quoted Steve Bowman of the University of Chichester:
“30% of our success is due to skills and experience but 70% is due to visibility”
Worth considering. But as Barbara also pointed out when you’re good at something, you make it look easy. And if it looks simple, then anyone can do it – right?
Um, naw. But Barbara provided some guidance:
- small things can still make an impact
- consider what you’re already doing in your own organisation: what’s the impact? what can you improve on?
- make sure you’re advertising what you are doing
- finally, don’t forget people’s opinions of you as a librarian will impact on how they view the entire profession.
The challenge: we need to make ourselves into a tribe, make ourselves visible, share with each other, share with our bosses, then share with everyone – what do we do, and what impact are we having? And who’s going to lose out without us?
First seminar at SLF13 was Julie Wilson with Ten reasons why outdoor learning closes the learning gap for children and young people and what a great place to start.
One of the things I like about SLF is gaining more familiarity with recent publications, and getting a better handle on how my own work fits in. So, for example, I was aware of the Play Strategy for Scotland when it was released, but with so much happening at work, reading it cover to cover just wasn’t an option at the time. Having the strategy put into context in advance of reading means there’s actually brain involved and not just eyes following words.
Anyway, we were guided through ten reasons why more learning should take place outdoors – at least there should be ten, but I’ve only got nine written down.
Along the way we looked at play structures in Berlin parks which immediately reminded me of games I’d played as a kid in the back green and in the field behind my house (derelict land formerly used for greenhouses): fewer primary colours, not always weeded, but plenty of room for playing with water, playing with dirt and above all, playing with imagination.
We also watched video clips of nursery children working out how to build a bridge, discovered links between David Sobel’s seven themes for outdoor activity (like making trails and befriending small creatures) and Carl Haywood’s core functions for cognitive development (embedded in the Bright Start programme) and how learning to control the functions of your body can lead to controlling the functions of your mind.
OK, I’m sold, so how can I take the library outside? I suppose that emphasises what a library is actually all about. If you think of resources, librarians are researching them, supplying them, teaching people how to access and use them, and helping re-create them in new formats. Well, a book and a tree are both information sources; you just have to learn to read them in their own ways. And libraries are also about fun and enjoyment and relaxation, and perhaps the most important thing we learned today was that there’s evidence to show that people are more happy and more hopeful when outdoors. What outside spaces does the library already have access to that I can take advantage of?
I’ve long been an advocate for using the wonderful country park just beyond our school, and we’ve gone walking there with the Photography Club and for our interdisciplinary work on local tourism, but what more can be done? My work is all about collaboration with teachers, but the final decision will always have to be theirs; I can only suggest. To be fair, the secondary timetable does not lend itself to going for extended walks, and neither does our weather (for example, our trip to Stirling Castle) but why should that stop us? We won’t melt in the rain and senior management have been extremely supportive.
Some ideas old and new:
- take the pupils out for a walk to gain inspiration for creative work (my Art colleague, LS, already does this, but why not English or Dance or Music?);
- take the pupils to gather photographs of their own town for languages work (tried this a few years ago, but constantly defeated by extremely bad weather);
- and one from Glasgow University’s School of Celtic and Gaelic (at SLF13), create street-name walks around the local area (I am dying to try this out!)
- bring more outside stuff inside, preferably stuff that won’t die, because I can guarantee I’ll accidentally kill it, but as part of displays (not my strong point) or just as tactile material to be about.
How to take the library and its work outside is definitely something I’ll keep thinking about.
One of the great things about the Scottish Learning Festival is finding new suppliers and publishers that I wasn’t previously aware of, but these two wouldn’t necessarily be on my wishlist.
Now most publishers are happy and interested on hearing you’re a librarian, but not Publisher A. She had asked if I had pupils who found reading difficult, and I replied that yes, I did, as well as those who were turned off reading. Unfortunately, while I was always on the lookout for suitable material for these young people, the books on display were more suitable for a primary school than a secondary library, and that was the essence of my reply.
And that’s when I got this dismissive brainteaser:
These books aren’t suitable for libraries anyway.
The publisher’s reasoning was that these books were designed to go with worksheets, and that therefore they shouldn’t be used as ‘books’.
Or maybe these ‘books’ are secretly bibliovores with excellent camouflage and hence shouldn’t be stored around so much prey. It would make as much sense.
Then, Publisher B apologised for problems with the PDF notes for his interactive stories: I was a wee bit bored by this time so wasn’t really paying attention, but I believe the problem was that they were in Chinese. Maybe it was a subtle form of interdisciplinary learning?
These goods weren’t for my library and I don’t want to put them down, but honestly, the people selling them really need to work on their marketing.
It’s funny what you remember. It’s twenty years since I was at the University Library and plenty has changed, but a lot hasn’t: the spiral staircases have vanished but the shelves are the same; the old carels have disappeared but the lights still go on when you walk beneath them; the floors are labelled differently, but the shelves looks much the same.
The Advanced Higher pupils needed a wee bit of help following the classification, so I had a great time zipping up and down the aisles, demonstrating the librarian’s secret power of finding books by some sort of bibliopathy or possibly osmosis. Occasionally I noticed evidence that I’ve used examples from Glasgow’s classification system in my own library, sad freak that I am.
Then of course, we misplaced a pupil somewhere between floors 5 – 11 and freaked out (a bit) until he reappeared, and myself and the revered PT English got caught by a librarian having a whispered conversation in the stacks of a clearly marked silent floor like a couple of idiot 1st years 😳 (but the doctorate student having a three course lunch round the corner gets away with it?) Naturally, we felt it important that pupils got a good impression of university life so we went for lunch in Ashton Lane :-).
So was it worth it? Well, the gang didn’t actually want to leave and were planning their next visit on the way back to school. They definitely appreciated the variety and complexity of information now available to them, but a half day wasn’t nearly long enough. We didn’t even let them loose on the photocopier.
Had a wonderful morning in Glasgow University Library with the Advanced Higher English pupils and the Principal Teacher of English, EM.
Glasgow University provides Advanced Higher students with reference access to their collections, and this year, we finally managed to actually find time to organise the trip, without something else getting in the way. EM and I are both Glasgow alumni, and were delighted about going back to see the old place.
But before heading off into the west, we had some explaining to do because there are one or two differences between our wee school library and a major academic library with 2.8 million books and journals. And it’s not just numbers: the style of books are completely different to what our pupils are used to. We explained the differences between academic monographs, collections of essays, journals and conference proceedings and how they could be used.
Then we moved onto to the classification and cataloguing system, and what each element of the classification number meant. As visitors to the Library, we were not allowed access to the computer system, which unfortunately meant the abstracts and online journals were unavailable to us so we had to identify materials in other ways. Fortunately, the Library’s catalogue includes records of journal articles, which provided vital assistance.
Other issues arose as they searched the catalogue for themselves. Naturally they’re used to searching the internet, but finding information for a comparative analysis of the woman’s voice in Rebecca and Wuthering Heights or the role of the psychopath in Notes on a Scandal is not a common occurrence.
I don’t get why this book has come up. I asked for Frankenstein and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it.
I was looking up ‘evil in literature’ but the catalogue says it’s under Theology
I can’t find anything.
There are too many to choose from.
It says the book is due back in October. How am I supposed to get it.
Why are all those books at the same number but this one isn’t?
… and so on. It was wonderful to see them all so engrossed in searching for their requirements and picking up advanced search skills along the way. and of course, I was having to rapidly update along with them or preferably a few seconds ahead!
So now, we were ready to hit the shelves.
I’ve recently returned to work after an absence and gained an intriguing insight into the mental and physical demands of the job that I just wouldn’t have noticed while I was caught up with all my usual responsibilities.
Managing a school library means an infinite number of different activities per nanosecond, concentrating on detailed tasks while people are holding discussions and working and trying out their solo talks all around; it’s constant interruptions for rulers, pens, paper, sharpeners, calculators, more paper, and pleas to help with computers and printers in between making making phone calls about missing deliveries of prospectuses; it’s solving problems like timetabling 20 classes into 10 periods and suggesting ideas for how to produce a team poster on four separate computers, while mentally juggling the demands of every class and department, every extra-curricular club and council wide initiative and remaining on top of them all and making connections between them whenever links appear, and communicating possibilities for new resources and activities; it’s writing lesson plans and teaching classes, and identifying difficulties and changing those plans at a moment’s notice according to the class mood or behaviour; it’s identifying the right book for the right person at the right time; and returning to it all suddenly after a break is somewhat startling!
But. It’s so lovely to be back: the friendly faces; the 6th years miraculously appearing in the LRC without using the doors; the anguished cries for help; and of course, the lunacy:
Miss, what would happen if you fell in love with an ape?
School librarianship: exhausting but exhilarating.
I saw the paperwork for an investigation recently – not from my own school – which ran a shiver down my spine. Quite apart from the lack of guidance about searching or using information, I was actually left speechless by the resources:
- there was a possibility of access to the internet
- there was a list of possible evidence to be used which didn’t mention books
- the list of URL recommendations – to be used if computer access was possible I suppose – excluded some obvious websites, but contained some that were far above the age level intended, and included Wikipedia (but that’s another article).
Turns out this particular school has no librarian, so I do have sympathy for the teacher who created it. I usually end up spending anything from a couple of hours to a few days hunting for materials, depending on what we already have in stock.
Why so long? Well, there’s a lot involved:
- LRC: check the catalogue; look through existing resources for useful information (books, encyclopaedias, posters, CDs, DVDs etc); add supplemental keywords where necessary; create a suitable reading list.
- Online: explorations over several search engines using all manner of phrases; follow links to identify additional materials; search the deeper web for hidden nuggets not necessarily mentioned by the major search engines; create an online reading list or website.
- Catalogues: hunt through paper and online publishers’ bumph; check other library catalogues; check major book sellers.
- Local libraries: contact the ERS for topic boxes or artefact collections or DVDs available for borrowing (the ERS has saved the day too many times to mention); check local library catalogues, especially local schools, to see what they’ve got that might still be available.
- Ephemera: additional material can be sourced from charities, businesses, museums; useful stuff can come from anywhere or be anything.
- Wikipedia: has to be checked out for content, since I know the pupils will definitely look at it :-): information, images, links all have to be verified.
- Video: many organisations are adding their video clips to YouTube or Vimeo and the like, but these need unblocked before being able to watch them in school. So that means searching for clips and then arranging for them to be made available. Thankfully the BBC has an excellent collection of ClassClips.
- Further discussions: on many occasions I’ve gone back to the teacher, explained the lack of materials and helped to rewrite the investigation to match the resources available.
Exactly when is a teacher meant to do all this?
Plus, it’s never enough to just identify this stuff. It’s got to be at a suitable reading level for the class requiring it, it’s got to be up-to-date and it absolutely has to be easy on the eye. A mass of closely written text (like this post!) will not encourage 1st years, and an all-singing, all-dancing website will be too distracting.
Not forgetting that a book on rainforests full of information about animals and plants would be potentially useless if pupils actually have to write a short report on how the Amazonian rainforest should be used to assist medical researchers or logging companies or ranchers. Materials must be analysed in detail to ensure the necessary information is included. So as often as possible, that means a visit to the book suppliers with sleeves rolled up so everything is viewed first.
And that’s before the purchasing process kicks in, or all the necessary procedures when the materials come into school.
Librarians don’t just put the books on the shelves; librarians identify resources of all shapes and sizes, select them and show pupils (and staff) how to use them to find what they need, and then how to pull it all together to make something interesting.
Working together, teachers and librarians can make outstanding investigations that pupils will enjoy and learn from. One without the other is less than half of the whole.